November 15, 2016 12:53 pm
Updated: November 15, 2016 8:13 pm

$25-a-day daycare pilot project coming to 18 Alberta early learning child care centres

WATCH ABOVE: By spring, hundreds of Alberta families will pay $25 a day for child care, which is about $500 a month. Tuesday morning, the Alberta government fulfilled its election pledge, but only by a fraction of what was first promised. Laurel Gregory reports.

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The Alberta government is launching a $10-million pilot project that will allow 18 Alberta early learning child care (ELCC) centres to offer daycare at a maximum of $25 a day.

The province said the project will create an estimated 1,000 new child care spaces and up to 230 new child care jobs. It may also help some families save hundreds of dollars a month.

READ MORE: Child care becoming ‘privilege’ only upper-income Canadians can afford: advocate

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In some cases the cost of child care can exceed a parent’s income, so having mom or dad stay home to care for the kids makes more financial sense for some families. The province said this pilot project will give families more options.

“Improving access to child care will support more women to remain in or enter the workforce,” Minister of Status of Women Stephanie McLean said. “[Tuesday’s] investment will improve the lives of women and move us one step closer to equality in Alberta.”

According to a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report called They Go Up So Fast: 2015 Child Care Fees in Canadian Cities, the median cost for monthly, licensed full-day child care in Edmonton was $900 for infants, $790 for toddlers and $800 for preschoolers. Calgary parents paid slightly more, with a median cost of $1075 for babies, $960 for toddlers and $910 for preschoolers.

READ MORE: Calgary daycares suffering due to economy

The province said the project will also address gaps in the existing child-care system, including:

  • flexible child-care options for parents doing shift work
  • accessible locations, such as hospitals and other public buildings
  • supports for children with diverse needs.

During the Tuesday morning announcement at MacEwan University, the province said to qualify for the project, child care centres have to be non-profit and will have to submit a grant proposal. Currently licensed day cares and proposed centres can apply.

READ MORE: ‘Total gong show’: Parents reveal flaws of child-care subsidy system

At least one ELCC centre in each Human Services region will be part of the $25 daycare project. There are seven regions: Northwest, Northeast, North Central, Edmonton, Central, Calgary, and South. The province said the number of centres in each region will be based on how much interest there is.

Each new child care centre will receive up to $500,000 in operating funding in the first year, with the opportunity to receive two more years of funding.

When considering which centres will participate, the government will consider capacity trends, low socio-economic status, and the needs of indigenous and newcomer families.

The province has a partnership with MacEwan University, which has developed a “made in Alberta” curriculum framework for child care educators working in centre-based child care and family day home settings with kids up to five years old.

The province said ELCC centres need to commit to the framework in order to participate in the pilot project.

The deadline to apply to become an early learning and child care centre is Jan. 20, 2017.

READ MORE: Alberta NDP platform: What’s done and what’s left to do

Notley has been pushing for affordable child care for years. In 2014, she criticised the then-Progressive Conservative government, saying, “We have a government whining about the fact that they can’t find enough workers, and at the same time refuse to take the prudent steps that will ensure that young parents, particularly, usually young mothers, can get back into the workplace faster.”

During the 2015 provincial election, the NDP promised to move toward $25-a-day child care as finances permit. Premier Rachel Notley reiterated that statement on Tuesday.

“We’re going to go as fast as we can. Of course we would like to be able to offer it to every family that wants it,” Notley said.

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